MY OLDER BROTHER Michael was the first person to get me stoned. I can't remember most of the stuff we talked about that evening because, uh, I was superstoned. But I do recall one thing he said: "When pot is legal, they will sell a strain of marijuana that is high in flavor—but low in potency." That sort of low-octane pot would allow people to smoke a whole joint, enjoying the sweet taste of the bud, while getting just a mild, manageable buzz.
Such a product would suit the vast majority of pot smokers. Of the roughly 100 million Americans who have smoked marijuana in their lifetime, most use pot infrequently and, thus, have a low tolerance. Specifically, the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 31.8 million Americans consumed pot in the last year, while only 17.4 million used it in the past month, and only a tiny subset, 5.4 million people, smoked pot daily or almost daily.
In other words, only a fraction of pot smokers need powerful weed to get high.
Still, brain-stunning superbud dominates the existing West Coast marijuana market. This is a direct result of prohibition. Growers try to yield the maximum profit per plant to make their risk worthwhile, which means growing pot with the highest-possible concentrations of THC. Traffickers and dealers want high potency, too (like moonshine runners), because they want to reduce their chances of getting caught by carrying smaller quantities. After all, the penalty for selling a pound of powerful pot is the same as the penalty for a pound of low-potency bud, so they may as well sell the powerful stuff for more money.
But consuming a whole joint of that kind of weed is enough to catapult occasional smokers, like me, into a two-hour catatonic anxiety attack. We don't want to get so high we can't socialize or remember conversations with our older brother.
A legal pot market can finally change this. Rather than pot being grown in small basement gardens (which requires expensive overhead per plant), growers will soon cultivate crops in large warehouses or outdoors (where the cost per plant plummets). And in a legal industry, the growers, distributors, and sellers won't be tacking on exorbitant markups to compensate for outsize legal risk.
That's why I want the pot industry to make my brother's dream a reality and sell high-flavor, low-potency joints that look and feel like cigarettes. (Disclaimer: Smoking anything is unhealthy, but as an adult you're allowed to do things that are a little unhealthy.) And imagine: While friends go out to smoke cigarettes, you could join them with one of these joints that contain a measured dose of pot and a refined flavor (not too dank, not too harsh). You could get a mild high, like the equivalent of a couple glasses of wine, that still lets you function like a normal human being.
That sort of pot simply wasn't economically viable under prohibition, but we won't be living under prohibition much longer.